Quick Reads
The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Week 3 Quick Reads

Marcus Mariota
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Vincent Verhei

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has taken a dozen sacks this season, losing 70 yards in the process. Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns has only taken 11 sacks, but he trumps Watson with 81 yards lost on those plays. Is that info meaningful? Do deeper sacks hurt an offense more than shallow sacks? Is there a point where an offense can play better by taking more sacks, so long as those sacks are closer to the line of scrimmage?

Let's start by looking at which quarterbacks take the shallowest and deepest sacks. In the ten-year stretch from 2009 to 2018, there were 351 instances of a quarterback taking at least 16 sacks in a season -- theoretically, one per scheduled game. (Marcus Mariota and Kyler Murray have already hit that threshold this season -- congrats guys! -- but since nobody else has, we'll ignore 2019 for today.) That includes a number of players who didn't meet our typical threshold of 200 dropbacks in a season, including five players from last season (C.J. Beathard, Jeff Driskel, Lamar Jackson, Cody Kessler, and Brock Osweiler). In 2014, Chad Henne of the Jacksonville Jaguars was sacked 16 times in only 94 dropbacks, the fewest dropbacks among the 351 player-seasons we're analyzing here.

Case Keenum's average sack with the Texans in 2013 lost 10.6 yards, most of any qualifier in the last ten years. The next year, a different Texans quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, lost 3.95 yards per sack, the fewest. Fitzpatrick is also in second place in that category with his 2016 season with the New York Jets.

Most/Fewest Yards Lost Per Sack, Single Season, 2009-2018
Most   Fewest
Name Yr Tm Sacks Yds/Sack Name Yr Tm Sacks Yds/Sack
C.Keenum 2013 HOU 19 10.58 R.Fitzpatrick 2014 HOU 21 3.95
R.Tannehill 2015 MIA 45 9.33 R.Fitzpatrick 2016 NYJ 19 4.26
J.Flacco 2014 BAL 19 8.79 C.Ponder 2013 MIN 27 4.41
C.Beathard 2018 SFO 18 8.67 L.Jackson 2018 BAL 16 4.44
C.Newton 2015 CAR 33 8.61 M.Vick 2014 NYJ 19 4.47
J.Goff 2016 LARM 26 8.54 T.Taylor 2016 BUF 42 4.57
K.Cousins 2017 WAS 41 8.34 J.Kitna 2010 DAL 21 4.76
B.Roethlisberger 2016 PIT 17 8.29 M.Ryan 2009 ATL 19 4.84
K.Cousins 2016 WAS 23 8.26 D.Carr 2016 OAK 16 4.94
C.Palmer 2009 CIN 26 8.19 J.Flacco 2018 BAL 16 4.94
Minimum 16 sacks taken.

The 2018 Ravens managed to place two quarterbacks on the shallow-sack leaderboard in Jackson and his predecessor, Joe Flacco. This is most significant because Flacco has usually taken deeper sacks than most quarterbacks. His average sack has lost 7.10 yards in his career; in Denver this year, he has averaged a loss of 7.36 yards on 11 sacks.

Here are the total leaderboards, looking at all players who took at least 48 sacks (three seasons as a hypothetical starter, though again some players get there much faster than that) in the past decade:

Most/Fewest Yards Lost Per Sack, All Seasons, 2009-2018
Most   Fewest
Name Sacks Yds/Sack Name Sacks Yds/Sack
R.Tannehill 248 7.60 C.Ponder 95 5.27
K.Cousins 146 7.60 R.Fitzpatrick 198 5.34
C.Newton 285 7.56 T.Taylor 142 5.45
M.Glennon 65 7.55 A.Smith 329 5.52
D.McNabb 88 7.36 M.Vick 129 5.63
J.Goff 84 7.35 M.Cassel 159 5.80
C.Keenum 105 7.19 B.Bortles 195 5.94
C.Palmer 232 7.16 D.Prescott 113 5.97
M.Schaub 127 7.10 C.McCoy 83 5.98
B.Osweiler 79 7.08 P.Rivers 334 6.04
Minimum 48 sacks taken.

The first thing you'll notice here is that there is a large difference between players at the extremes in this category. Ryan Tannehill's average sack has lost 44% more yards than Christian Ponder's over their careers.

As you'd expect, you'll find several names shuffled around in both sets of tables. Some obvious body types stick out too -- the guys who take deep sacks are generally lead-footed statues (except for Donovan McNabb), while players who take shallow sacks are typically smaller and quicker (except for Philip Rivers).

Fitzpatrick's repeat atop the shallow-sacks leaderboard is an indication that some quarterbacks might consistently take shallower and deeper sacks, and the numbers show he's not an isolated example. Among the 223 instances of quarterbacks taking 16-plus sacks in back-to-back seasons, the year-to-year correlation in average sack depth was 0.462. This is fairly sticky given the random nature of most football stats.

With that in mind, you might expect to see certain types or styles of passers post similar sack depths, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Before starting this, I expected to find that deep-ball quarterbacks who averaged high yards per completion with low completion rates -- your Jameis Winston, Cam Newton types -- to take deeper sacks than their peers, but that isn't true. There is practically zero correlation between completion, yardage, touchdown, or interception rates and sack depth. There is no relationship between sack depth and age or draft round either. As we noted earlier, there is some correlation between size and sack depth, but it's very weak -- just 0.095 for height and 0.089 for weight. In both categories, it's the biggest players who take the deepest sacks. Players under 6-foot-4 had an average sack depth of 6.45 yards; that average climbed to 6.61 for players 6-foot-4 or taller. Players under 240 pounds had an average sack depth of 6.50 yards; that average climbed to 6.89 for players 240 pounds or heavier.

If any type of quarterbacks tend to take shallower sacks, it's the extreme rushers. There have been eight quarterback seasons in the past decade that gained at least 20 percent of their total offense (rushing plus passing yards, minus yards lost on sacks) on the ground. (It's a fascinating list: Josh Allen, Lamer Jackson, Terrelle Pryor, Tim Tebow, Michael Vick, Russell Wilson, and Robert Griffin twice.) The average sack depth in those eight seasons was 6.14 yards. The average for all other quarterback seasons was 6.54 yards.

Does any of this actually matter? DVOA accounts for specific yardage on each play, and thus deeper sacks have a harsher penalty than shallow ones. In the big picture, though, that doesn't seem to matter. The correlation between pass offense DVOA and sack rate last year was -0.575; the correlation between pass offense DVOA and yards lost on sacks per dropback was weaker at -0.527. And average sack depth was basically neutral at -0.029. Taking big sacks is bad, but it's better to avoid sacks entirely than to worry about about how close they come to the line of scrimmage.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Matt Ryan ATL
29/34
304
3
1
0
195
194
0
IND
Ryan didn't complete either of his third-down throws in the first half. (In his defense, they came with 11 and 15 yards to go.) He picked up first downs on all seven of his third-down throws in the second half: six completions for 72 yards and a touchdown, and a 15-yard DPI on third-and-11.
2.
Patrick Mahomes KC
28/37
374
3
0
1
173
174
-1
BAL
Mahomes was best when throwing to his left: 14-of-16 for 203 yards and all three touchdowns.
3.
Russell Wilson SEA
32/49
406
2
0
0
172
142
30
NO
There was certainly some late-game stat-padding here. Only Matt Ryan had more DYAR in the fourth quarter or overtime this week, when Wilson went 16-of-28 for 211 yards and a touchdown. But each of those throws came with Seattle trailing by at least 12 points. He was in the middle of pack in DYAR through three quarters.
4.
Jacoby Brissett IND
28/37
310
2
0
1
161
157
4
ATL
Brissett completed each of his first 16 passes, accumulating 178 yards and 130 DYAR over that stretch.
5.
Deshaun Watson HOU
25/34
351
3
0
2
157
165
-9
LAC
Watson was nearly perfect on L.A.'s side of the field, going 7-of-8 for 111 yards with two touchdowns and a sack. He had a 53-yard touchdown from just outside L.A. territory too.
6.
Tom Brady NE
29/42
306
2
0
0
134
134
0
NYJ
Brady led the league in first-quarter DYAR this week. In the first 15 minutes, he went 11-of-13 for 154 yards and a touchdown.
7.
Kirk Cousins MIN
16/21
174
1
0
0
86
88
-2
OAK
Cousins ranks this high even though he didn't throw a single pass in the fourth quarter ... and yet he would actually rank lower if we ignored the fourth quarter for everyone. There were some bad fourth quarters this week, is what that means.
8.
Dak Prescott DAL
19/32
246
2
1
1
85
72
13
MIA
Prescott was actually below replacement level in the first half, but then he caught fire in the third quarter, when only Matt Ryan had more DYAR. Prescott completed all nine of his third-quarter passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, taking one sack.
9.
Gardner Minshew JAX
20/30
204
2
0
0
83
80
3
TEN
Minshew's another quarterback who played best in the first quarter this week: 7-of-8 for 85 yards and two touchdowns.
10.
Kyle Allen CAR
19/26
261
4
0
2
83
87
-5
ARI
Allen had three goal-to-go touchdowns against Arizona, but he wasn't reliant on short passes. On throws that traveled at least 10 yards downfield, he went 9-of-12 for 195 yards and a touchdown. He would rank higher if he had not fumbled on both of his sacks.
11.
Jameis Winston TB
23/36
380
3
1
4
81
95
-14
NYG
Winston was very good in building Tampa Bay's lead and then very bad as it withered away. From the point the Bucs went up 25-10 to when the Giants took the lead, Winston went 8-of-16 for 74 yards with two sacks and an interception. He then hit completions of 20 and 44 yards to set up a potential game-winning field goal, but, you know. Bucs kickers.
12.
Aaron Rodgers GB
17/29
235
1
0
0
75
75
0
DEN
Rodgers avoided sacks and interceptions, but after a good first quarter he did very little to help Green Bay win. In the last 45 minutes his success rate was just 30%. Only Kyler Murray and Luke Falk were worse among starters this week. In those three quarters, Rodgers went 12-of-20 for 126 yards, which sounds OK, but 73 of those yards came on the only four completions that picked up first downs.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13.
Teddy Bridgewater NO
19/27
177
2
0
0
72
86
-14
SEA
Bridgewater's average pass attempt traveled 3.5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, least of any passer this week. Nine of his completions, 78 of his yards, and both of his touchdowns came on throws to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage.
14.
Matthew Stafford DET
18/32
201
1
0
0
64
64
0
PHI
In one stretch over the second and third quarters, Stafford went 10 straight throws without picking up a first down, completing four passes for all of 10 yards.
15.
Carson Wentz PHI
19/36
259
2
0
3
64
54
10
DET
Stafford's counterpart on Sunday went through his own dry spell, but it came at the most critical part of the game. On seven throws with Philadelphia down by three points late in the fourth quarter, Wentz went 2-of-7 for 7 yards.
16.
Mitchell Trubisky CHI
25/31
231
3
1
3
53
55
-3
WAS
17.
Daniel Jones NYG
23/36
336
2
0
5
46
20
26
TB
The Giants may have found their quarterback, but they still need offensive linemen. Jones was somehow sacked on four straight dropbacks in the second half. (There are six teams that haven't given up that many sacks all season, and not coincidentally, those teams have a combined record of 15-2-1.) Jones didn't help matters by fumbling twice on sacks -- once in the second quarter, once in the fourth.
18.
Philip Rivers LAC
31/46
318
2
0
5
43
47
-4
HOU
Rivers had 129 DYAR on throws to Keenan Allen, but -81 DYAR on his other 36 dropbacks. The first play of the fourth quarter saw Rivers complete a pass to Lance "He's still in the league?" Kendricks for a 13-yard gain on second-and-11. That was the last time any Chargers receiver other than Allen would produce a first down. From that point forward, Rivers went 1-of-9 for 9 yards to targets not wearing uniform No. 13.
19.
Josh Allen BUF
24/35
243
1
1
1
7
13
-5
CIN
Allen made some big plays in this game, but he still made some bad mistakes (a 22-yard loss for intentional grounding on third-and-2 in field goal range!) and a long dry spell. From the time the Bills went up 14-0 to the point that the Bengals took a 17-14 lead, Allen went 5-of-10 for 25 yards and a very bad interception.
20.
Derek Carr OAK
27/34
242
2
1
4
6
10
-3
MIN
Carr did not throw for a first down until the Raiders were down 21-0 in the second quarter. Up to that point, he had gone 3-of-5 for 7 yards with two sacks and an interception. If you thought Russell Wilson was a fourth-quarter stat-padder, check out Carr's late-game dink-and-dunk-a-thon: 13-of-15 for 115 yards with one touchdown and one sack, all with Oakland trailing by at least 24 points.
21.
Lamar Jackson BAL
22/43
267
0
0
3
6
-11
17
KC
On four separate trips into the red zone, Jackson went 0-for-6 with a sack. He also had three red zone runs, all scrambles: a 7-yard gain on third-and-10, another 7-yard gain on the ensuing fourth-and-3, and a 9-yard touchdown on second-and-goal.
22.
Marcus Mariota TEN
23/40
304
0
0
9
-26
-42
16
JAX
Mariota did not convert a third- or fourth-down throw untll the Titans were down by two touchdowns in the second half. Eight of his nine sacks also came with that big second-half deficit. He only had one trip in the red zone: he threw incomplete on second and third down, then took a sack on fourth down.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
23.
Jimmy Garoppolo SF
23/32
277
1
2
1
-28
-32
3
PIT
Garoppolo had two aborted snaps in the first half; no other quarterback has two aborted snaps this season. Thanks in part to all of San Francisco's turnovers, he only had five third-down throws, completing four of them for 57 yards and three conversions.
24.
Baker Mayfield CLE
18/36
195
1
1
3
-29
-9
-20
LAR
As noted frequently in Audibles, Mayfield has a tendency to drift to his right under pressure ... which is why it's so strange that his numbers on throws to his right were so poor: 7-of-19 for 47 yards with an interception, plus a 15-yard DPI on a 20th throw.
25.
Andy Dalton CIN
20/35
249
1
2
2
-39
-46
7
BUF
Dalton was impressive rallying the Bengals to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but it's largely his fault they fell behind in the first place. No quarterback this week had worse DYAR in the first half, when Dalton went 5-of-13 for 63 yards with as many first downs (one) as sacks. (It was actually even worse than that for the Bengals as his receivers fumbled two of those completions away, although one of those came on an end-of-half lateral play.) And then midway through the third quarter he added another sack and an interception before Cincinnati's late surge.
26.
Josh Rosen MIA
18/39
200
0
0
3
-46
-44
-2
DAL
Rosen's DYAR is so low mainly because of his struggles in short- and medium-yardage situations. With 6 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 5-of-14 for 63 yards with a 26-yard DPI, one sack, and only five conversions. For comparison's sake, quarterbacks have picked up first downs on more than half their dropbacks with 6 yards or less to go this season.
27.
Jared Goff LAR
24/38
269
2
2
2
-47
-38
-9
CLE
After a largely uneventful first half, Goff had quite a rollercoaster in the second half, when he threw both of his touchdowns and both of his interceptions.
28.
Case Keenum WAS
30/42
332
2
3
4
-55
-60
6
CHI
29.
Luke Falk NYJ
12/22
98
0
1
5
-92
-92
0
NE
Falk only threw for five first downs against New England, and four of them came after the Patriots had built a 20-0 lead. He did not convert a third- or fourth-down play, going 4-of-7 for 14 yards with an interception and two sacks. He did not throw a single pass in the red zone; in fact, he did not throw a single pass within New England's 40-yard line. He only had three plays in New England territory: two incompletions and a sack.
30.
Joe Flacco DEN
20/28
213
0
1
6
-93
-97
4
GB
Some quarterbacks thrive on first downs because defenses are expecting a run. And then there's Flacco, who went 3-of-7 for 24 yards and two sacks on first-down dropbacks. Despite losing for almost the entire game, Flacco only tried two deep passes, both in the third quarter. One was completed to Courtland Sutton for a 52-yard gain; perhaps he should throw deep more often.
31.
Mason Rudolph PIT
14/27
174
2
1
2
-93
-90
-3
SF
Before hitting some big plays late, Rudolph was absolutely miserable in this game. At one point in the third quarter, he had gone 9-of-20 for 45 yards with one sack, one interception, and -64 DYAR. Rudolph's final numbers would look even worse if his receivers had not made big plays with the ball in their hands -- 80% of his total yardage came after the catch, most of any starter this week.
32.
Kyler Murray ARI
30/43
173
2
2
8
-140
-166
26
CAR
Murray threw a league-high 12 failed completions, in large part because his average completion was caught just 2.0 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, also the worst mark in the league. His 3-yard touchdown to David Johnson gave Arizona the lead early in the third quarter, but it was his last first down on the day. In the Arizona's final five drives, he went 6-of-13 for 25 yards with two interceptions and five sacks. He had -123 passing DYAR in the fourth quarter alone.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Mark Ingram BAL
16
103
3
4/4
32
0
84
70
13
KC
Each of Ingram's carries gained at least 1 yard and he had an absurd success rate of 81%. He had eight first downs on the ground, including gains of 19 and 21 yards. Two of his receptions also produced first downs.
2.
Alvin Kamara NO
16
69
1
8/11
92
1
58
10
48
SEA
Kamara was stuffed just once and had four first downs rushing, the longest a 16-yarder. His eight receptions lost 17 yards in the air but Kamara produced 104 yards after the catch, including four first downs. He gained a fifth first down on a DPI in the red zone.
3.
Tony Pollard DAL
13
103
1
3/3
25
0
57
47
10
MIA
All of Pollard's carries gained at least 1 yard, four gained at least 10 yards, and six produced first downs. His success rate on the ground was 69%. He also had a first down as a receiver.
4.
Ezekiel Elliott DAL
19
125
0
2/3
14
0
57
50
6
MIA
Guys, I'm starting to get the impression that the Miami Dolphins are a bad team. In particular we don't talk enough about how bad their defensive front is -- Elliott was stuffed on just one of his carries against Miami. Eight of his carries went for first downs, and six gained 10 yards or more.
5.
Dalvin Cook MIN
16
110
1
4/5
33
0
47
42
5
OAK
All of Cook's carries gained at least 1 yard. He had five first downs rushing, including a 25-yarder and three others that gained 10-plus yards. As a receiver, he had an 18-yard gain on third-and-18 and a 12-yard gain on third-and-2.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Mark Ingram BAL
16
103
3
4/4
32
0
84
70
13
KC
2.
Ezekiel Elliott DAL
19
125
0
2/3
14
0
57
50
6
MIA
3.
Tony Pollard DAL
13
103
1
3/3
25
0
57
47
10
MIA
4.
Dalvin Cook MIN
16
110
1
4/5
33
0
47
42
5
OAK
5.
Phillip Lindsay DEN
21
81
2
4/5
49
0
45
29
15
GB
Mr. Consistency. None of Lindsay's carries gained more than 9 yards and only four gained first downs, but two of those first downs were 1-yard scoring plays, and he was stuffed for no gain just once. He picked up a first down on four of his five carries with 3 yards or less to go for a first down.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Chris Carson SEA
15
53
0
1/1
-2
0
-43
-37
-6
NO
Carson's only first down came on a 16-yard run in the first quarter. He also had a 23-yard run in the second quarter, but fumbled the ball away at the end of that play, watching the Saints scoop it up and run it back for a touchdown. None of his other 13 carries gained more than four yards, none counted as a successful play, five of them resulted in stuffs, and together they gained a total of 14 yards. His only catch was a 2-yard loss on third-and-13.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Chris Carson SEA
15
53
0
1/1
-2
0
-43
-37
-6
NO

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Keenan Allen LAC
13
17
183
14.1
2
72
HOU
Allen's totals include 71 DYAR receiving, 1 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 3 yards. Eight of his receptions gained first downs, the longest a 34-yarder, and he had three conversions on third or fourth down.
2.
Julio Jones ATL
8
9
128
16.0
1
71
IND
Seven of Jones' eight receptions gained at least 10 yards and a first down. He had a ninth first down on a 15-yard DPI.
3.
Mike Evans TB
8
15
190
23.8
3
63
NYG
You won't often see a receiver with seven incomplete targets in the top five, but you won't see a receiver with three touchdowns too often either. The touchdowns may not have been his biggest catches, either -- they averaged 14.7 yards apiece, while his other five catches averaged 29.2.
4.
Taylor Gabriel CHI
6
7
75
12.5
3
60
WAS
Gabriel's totals include 54 DYAR receiving, 6 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 7 yards.
5.
Amari Cooper DAL
6
7
88
14.7
2
56
MIA
Five of Cooper's catches produced first downs, including a pair of red zone touchdowns and a 37-yard gain.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
John Ross CIN
2
6
22
11.0
0
-42
BUF
Ah, that's the John Ross we're used to. Ross barely played in his rookie season in 2018 and gained only 210 yards in 13 games last season, then busted out this year with 158 yards against Seattle and 112 against San Francisco. Buffalo shut him down though, and he had as many fumbles (one) as first downs against the Bills.

Comments

68 comments, Last at 25 Sep 2019, 1:24pm

1 Some back-of-the-envelope…

Some back-of-the-envelope estimates.

There are 3 main costs of a sack: loss of yardage, loss of down, and loss of possession (turnover on a sack-fumble).

Yardage: the average sack loses about 6.5 yards.

Down: I'd guess that a down is worth something like 4 yards on average (e.g., a 4-yard gain on 1st & 10 is basically a tie rather than a win for the offense or a win for the defense).

Possession: Brian Burke has estimated that about 8.5% of sacks result in a lost fumble, and I'd guess that a lost sack-fumble is worth about 65 yards, which means that the average sack costs another 5.5 yards or so due to risk of turnover.

That means that each play involving a sack costs about 16 yards on average (i.e., it's slightly worse than a 15-yard penalty where you repeat the down). Each additional sack that you take is an additional cost of about 16 yards, as it's another down lost, another 6.5ish yards lost, and another 8.5ish% chance at a lost fumble.

If a QB takes unusually deep sacks that means that he loses maybe an extra yard per sack (less than that if we're talking about whole careers, more than that if we're talking about the most extreme QB in a single season). That's a 15% increase in yards lost due to sacks (7.5/6.5 = 1.15), but just a 6% increase in total cost due to sacks (17/16 = 1.06).

Another way to look at it: If a QB gets sacked 32 times over the course of a season, then adding 1 yard lost per sack (due to higher depth of sack) is about as bad as getting sacked 2 additional times (34 instead of 32); both add the equivalent of about 32 more yards lost. And 1 additional yard lost covers most of the variation in depth of sack between average and pretty bad, whereas 2 additional sacks (for a fixed number of dropbacks) does not cover most of the variation in sack rates between average and pretty bad.

So it seems like variation in depth of sack should only account for a small portion of the total variation in cost of sacks.

20 A sack is worth?...

Chase Stuart (Football Perspective, formerly PFR) showed that an INT is worth 45 yards of field position.   I’m assuming that he’s making the analogous claim here that a TO is worth 45 yards.  

65 yards seems high though.   Should be ~50 (45 + 6.5).   The 4 yards loss of down is implicit in the 45 yard estimate so there’s double counting happening here.   Overall point stands though.  

 

29 How far downfield from the…

How far downfield from the original line of scrimmage does the average interception play end?  Obviously there's huge variance here between deep ball interceptions and interceptions that are brought back beyond the original line of scrimmage, but if the 45 wasn't just another "back of the envelope" calculation (and therefore no better or worse than 65 yards for a strip fumble), it's presumably based on a predicted average start point post the interception. 

31 Looking for some hard…

Looking for some hard numbers, in 2003 <a href="https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2003/how-many-points-turnover-worth">Aaron calculated</a> 55.5 yards as the cost of a turnover (if the new possession starts at the previous line of scrimmage). With the way I set up the numbers, that would make the cost of a sack-fumble turnover 51.5 plus the return yardage (subtracting 4 to avoid double-counting the loss of down, and not adding the 6.5 yards lost at the spot of the fumble since I already counted that too).

Although if the correct number was 55.5 in 2003, it should be higher now because improvements to offensive efficiency and kicking have increased the cost of a turnover.

Also, 55.5 was for the average turnover. If sack-fumble turnovers have a different distribution of down & distance or field position, then they would have a different cost.

Chase's 45 yard estimate has its own field position assumptions built in, and seems too low given that the average punt nets about 40 yards (and many sack-fumble turnovers keep the offense from doing something more valuable than just punting).

My intuition now says "about 60 yards" rather than 65.

33 I doubt there's sufficient…

I doubt there's sufficient data to detect a difference amongst NFL QBs.

At lower tier levels, there may have been differences, but on the guys who move forward, I can't see there being enough strip fumbles over the course of a career to distinguish between weak hands / bad ball positioning and just random noise. 

37 Eye Test

If memory serves, I'd say yes. I seem to remember Manning giving himself up and going down when he sensed unavoidable pressure.

40 So...

That means that each play involving a sack costs about 16 yards on average (i.e., it's slightly worse than a 15-yard penalty where you repeat the down)

If a sack is worse than a 15-yard penalty (repeating the down), it's considerably worse than a 10-yard penalty (repeating the down).  Which means that any time a lineman (or back in protection) is beat and sees that a defender is clearly going to sack the QB, he should without hesitation tackle the defender and take the holding penalty.

47 Sure, but easier said than…

In reply to by DGL

Sure, but easier said than done.

Any time a quarterback sees that a defender is clearly going to sack him, he should just throw the ball away and take the loss of down. Pulling that off seems easier than pulling off the intentional holding penalty, and it's still pretty hard to do.

52 Intentional holding

That's called intentional grounding, and just as bad as taking the sack (if not worse.)

The other problems with intentionally holding: sometimes it doesn't matter, the defense gets the sack anyway; your QB might have gotten rid of the ball anyway without the holding; he might have avoided the sack; and worst of all--if there were a defensive penalty, whether downfield, on the sack, offsides, etc.--now they will cancel out b/c you committed a penalty instead of letting the play continue. 

60 Yeah there's tons of…

Yeah there's tons of variance there. You can't just assume that you being beat == QB getting creamed. Maybe if you get immediately beat on a play action pass, but probably nothing else. I mean, according to PFF Aaron Donald had 110+ pressures last season, and "only" 20.5 sacks. So if we assume that you getting beat means 1/5th of a sack, then you really shouldn't be tackling them down.

2 channeling Gil Brandt...

"There were some bad fourth quarters this week, is what that means."

That sounds like the way Gil Brandt would have put it.

3 The 3 Top WRs

All lost this week. I would think that almost be impossible to happen.

4 Luke Faulk vs. Kyler Murry

From the Article
"Luke Faulk -92 DYAR
Falk only threw for five first downs against New England, and four of them came after the Patriots had built a 20-0 lead. He did not convert a third- or fourth-down play, going 4-of-7 for 14 yards with an interception and two sacks. He did not throw a single pass in the red zone; in fact, he did not throw a single pass within New England's 40-yard line. He only had three plays in New England territory: two incompletions and a sack."
I watched that game, this is a pretty good summary; I'll add that the Jets were 0-12 on 3rd down and 0-1 on 4th down, plus a turnover (int). When I read the article I note that Kyler Murry somehow accumulated 48 more negative DYAR (inclusive of his positive rushing plays) then Faulk did and I'm asking myself how a QB could possibly be less effective than Faulk was. From a mathematical point of view it's fairly obvious that it's a result of the greater number of opportunities Murry had to suck (51 drop backs vs. 27). looking at those raw numbers you might think that the Cards non-QB rushing game was effective, but that's not the case, many of the third down conversions were Murry's (the Cards were 9-17 on 3rd down, mostly by scramble or short pass). I guess this day is mostly a consequence of the outsized effect of the 8 sacks Murry took, but I still don't think DYAR is a correct comparison of the ineffectiveness of these two QB games.

48 Too bad to be bad?

It almost feels like Murry is ranked worse than Falk because the latter played badly enough to not give himself the opportunity to rack up as much negative DYAR.

59 To bad to be bad!

This is what I was trying to get at; Like many iterative game systems previous QB failure prevents future QB failure, as a result it can be statistically challenging how to weight a 3-out. There are mathematical approaches to this kind of dependant problem that I'm familiar with from the world of theoretical valuation of securities, but it would be a lot more work than an internet comment justifies to try to adapt them. The basic argument is that if you count at the drive level Murry was enormously more successful then Falk, but if you count at the play level Falk was much better because he got less opportunities to be bad. It's an interesting statistical outlier that adds to a longstanding case that I (and others) have made here that the various stats here should look at per-drive success as a potential alternate metric to per play success since football scoring (and success/failure in general) is accomplished per drive rather than per play.

61 Pardon me if this is a long…

Pardon me if this is a long-known rebuttal, but the problem with per-drive is sample size. An offense that sucks has a much higher chance of having a string of good-enough plays to march down the field, then it does to actually have the 13 or so plays on that drive be good, even on average. Over the course of a game, an offense that's good has a much higher chance of having their 10-15 drives stall out, than it does of having 60+ bad plays. We've all seen games where the worse team keeps getting those third and long conversions when they're really just getting lucky.

I know that you can have a more subtle scoring system then just points, including yards, turnovers, etcetera. I do think there's a lot to per-drive efficiency, and I would like to see how well they correlate with DVOA.

63 Rebutal

"the problem with per-drive is sample size" - This is the reason per-drive assessment hasn't been seriously persued. There are typically only 12-14 drives/game for each team, so the error bars involved in the results would be massive compared to looking at the 60 or so plays typically in those drives. I still think the results would be interesting, but obviously the power that be at FO don't sufficiently agree to make the effort and I havn't taken it on independantly.

67 It's a Team Sport

The other factor I forgot is the utter failure of the Jets' run game to help out. Bell and Montgomery  together had fewer yards than David Johnson on twice as many carries, and Bell's long was less than Murray's average. The Card's ground game gave Murray more first downs (10) than the Jets got total (0 rush, 4 pass, 2 penalty). So Falk was worse per play, but he and his teammates were so bad in all aspects of the offense, he didn't get enough opportunities to fail in the passing game.

57 I didn't see either game,…

I didn't see either game, but based on the numbers, I can see a very reasonable argument that Murray was worse.  He had fewer yards per attempt, more interceptions, and a lot more sacks.  Of course, not having seen either game, it's hard to say how much each individual QB was responsible for, but separating a QB's contribution from that of his teammates is notoriously hard, and has never really been what DYAR/DVOA was designed to measure in the first place.

13 Rodgers net yards/attempt…

Rodgers net yards/attempt from 2015-2018 is 6.13 vs league avg in that time 6.34. Whenever I've watched him over the last 4 years I've thought he's lost a little but he's still really good. I presumed that the stale (crappy?) offensive system had much to do with inefficient passing. 

This year he's 6.72 vs league average of 6.54, having played the Bears and Vikings. That's pretty decent really. I suspect Rodgers isn't peak Rodgers but still really good and that this year will be a step up from the last 4. 

49 I'm kind of amazed that…

I'm kind of amazed that performance was as high as 12th, honestly. I bet it looks even better when end-of-season opponent adjustments are done, too.

They did play a really tough slate of defenses, and I think that can make a QB look worse in a lot of indirect ways - and his play was at least solid. The Eagles' defense, with all their injuries and personnel losses, ought to be a much lesser foe, so I'm reserving judgement until at least after this game.

That said, he looked... frustrated, in a way I don't remember seeing much until, well, last year. Not that he's ever been Mr. Sunshine exactly, but in particular those throws at people's feet used to be long heaves down the sideline. It's understandable to an extent, with the new coaching staff and a weird mixture of young and old players in the supporting cast, but it's not an inspiring development.

53 The throws at people's feet …

The throws at people's feet - two of them, anyway - came on RPOs where, after Rodgers pulled the ball and looked to throw, none of the receivers were looking for a pass. All you can do at that point is tuck and run or chuck into the ground, since the linemen are going to be downfield. It's, uhh, Week 3 and they still haven't figured out how to run that play...

6 I watched Derek Carr and…

I watched Derek Carr and Case Keenum this week, and doing so made me think, once again, that even the most advanced metrics for qb play overvalue risk aversion. I'll offer no defense of Keenum other than this; unlike Carr, Keenum was actually trying to help his team win, into the 4th quarter. Carr was just trying to get a light workout in, from about midway through the 2nd quarter.

Obviously, comebacks while trailing by 20 plus points are always going to be rare, but I suspect they are made more rare by making avoiding more turnovers a high priority. I suspect that a high variance/risk approach greatly increases the incidence of losing by 35 or more, but also slightly increases the incidence of successful comebacks. It's worth investigating, it seems to me.

10 I also see coaches leaving…

I also see coaches leaving their starters in when the game is long lost - like Oakland did. Then they also don't even bother to call high risk plays that give them any chance to win. If you're giving up, at least rest your best players to avoid risk of injury.  

 

14 The broadcast showed a quote…

The broadcast showed a quote from Keenum at the beginning of the game about "living on borrowed time" with a first rounder sitting on the bench and just wanting to go out and enjoy the opportunity to play football while he can.

Channeling his inner-Ryan Fitzpatrick, that's pretty much what he did yesterday.  There was a lot of ugly, but also some success that I wasn't expecting considering the dominance of the Bear's front line.

Shame about the final fumble on the 4th down attempt.  I'm not sure when the QB reaching forward over the down marker became a considered a valid tactic, though?  I remember a play by Brees - maybe last year? - where he was given a first down on one of those jumps, but shouldn't have been because, yeah, the ball went over the down marker, but then he pulled it back, so it should have been a turnover on downs.   If that's still in team playbooks, maybe the league has validated that play, but I don't think they should have.  I was disappointed for Keenum to see the game end that way, but also sort of glad to see that play get the outcome it deserved.

19 Remember that 6 int…

Remember that 6 int performance Fitzmagic (when he was with the Jets) had against the Chiefs?  People were killing him for it.  But if you watched the game, he was making risky throws because his team was way behind, and he was trying to get them back in the game.  I'll take that kind of effort over the trailing quarterback dinking and dunking his way to stat padding, while draining the clock.

21 Simms and Romo have spoken…

Simms and Romo have spoken about Parcells, in practice and film work, heaping contempt on qbs who make int avoidance the highest priority, at the expense of trying the throws that gives his team the best chance to win.

36 That's interesting in the…

That's interesting in the context of Parcells/Belichick and the transition from Bledsoe to Brady, where the primary advantage in Brady was a significant decrease in risky decisions (at least early in TBs career)

45 I'd assume that's in large…

I'd assume that's in large part because Brady's excellent decision-making in general kept them out of situations where he had to make a lot of high-risk/high-reward gambles in the first place.

62 Yeah but I think Brady just…

Yeah but I think Brady just makes better overall decisions because he sees the field better. It's not like Bledsoe had a different philosophy prioritizing taking risks, while Brady was all about managing the game. Well that's somewhat true, but Brady was also just really good.

38 I think that's because when…

I think that's because when really good QBs take risks, they still very rarely throw INTs. So while throwing picks when trying to comeback is probably not a sign of being worse than dinking and dunking while trying to comeback, it's still showing you're not very good.

8 Watching the Bears game,…

Watching the Bears game, where Chicago caused three Keenum fumbles by basically just driving the pile straight back into him, popping the ball up hilariously off his helmet each time, I wonder if Keenum's deep sacks aren't a byproduct of his retreating to get more launch space. It seems stepping up into the pocket is no boon for him.

9 What happens if you regress…

What happens if you regress sack depth against the triangle plot of QB personality type? Do you seem the same agglomerations of Klingons that you saw there?

12 "As noted frequently in…

"As noted frequently in Audibles, Mayfield has a tendency to drift to his right under pressure ... which is why it's so strange that his numbers on throws to his right were so poor: 7-of-19 for 47 yards with an interception, plus a 15-yard DPI on a 20th throw."

On the broadcast, I thought I caught Collingsworth comment at some point that the Rams were playing towards that tendency of Mayfield's. I took that to mean something like shifting the infielders in baseball against a pull hitter. I'm not sure how you do that in a football defence, but Wade Phillips has been around a long time. If the tape showed Mayfield always escaping to his right, maybe the defensive scheme was designed to expect that, which may explain the poor results.

Another example of Phillips outmatching the young QB came on a throw to the right on the Rams side of the field that should have been a pick, possibly a pick 6, except the DB dropped it. Collingsworth did a good job showing on replay how the zone scheme changed after the snap, and Mayfield threw the ball directly at a guy he wasn't expecting to be there based on the pre-snap read.

16 Wade really ought to be in…

Wade really ought to be in the HoF some day. The only real rooting interest I had in the Rams winning last February was that it would increase the chance of that happening. Well, it was a masterful  plan by Phillips, executed by his players, but, all too predictably, Darth and his minions made Goff into a very pedestrian qb.

28 Yds/Sack and Lamar Jackson

I feel like even though Lamar's elusiveness has lead to a great yards per sack statline so far in his career, it doesn't even really do justice to his (or other elusive QBs) value. So far in his young career, he's been in a position where he's about to get sacked and turn it into a positive yardage rush, and some of these have been really really big runs of 10 yards or more. If he breaks a tackle or sidesteps a tackle that would surely have taken down an average QB and almost makes it back to the LoS, it goes down as a 1 yards sack in this stat, but if he gains 10 more yards this stat doesn't even count it. The most obvious fix I think would be tracking yards following a QB hit, but even that doesn't capture when he straight up sidesteps a defender. I don't really have a fix to offer, just pointing out an area for potential future research I guess.

30 It's a good observation, but…

It's a good observation, but is this different than quick release / quick decision / risk adverse QBs who avoid sacks by getting the ball out of their hands / finding the open receiver quickly / bailing fast with a dump off pass?

There are lots of ways to avoid sacks.  As the triangle plot from last week investigated, it's not clear that minimizing sacks is necessarily a good thing.  Turning a possible sack into a 1 yard run or a 2 yard dump off pass is a good thing in isolation compared to being sacked, but it's so difficult to confirm "that would have been a sack if he hadn't taken off running / checked down".  What if it was 85% chance to be a sack, 15% a TD if the QB hangs in long enough to spot a busted coverage deep?  

For the purpose in this article, I get sticking only to actual sacks.  Per your observation, though, there's a lot of other things going on. 

54 yeah, I was sort of just…

yeah, I was sort of just musing a bit. it's not like it's worthless information, and any better statistic i can envision would require subjective analysis from the game charter as well as extra time and effort. i really would like to see yards after contact from the pocket though. they chart this for running backs already, so at least that could be done fairly objectively. but man, it is FUN to watch lamar and mahomes in the pocket.

35 Yards lost per sack

I ran the numbers for Aaron Brooks, and it was better than I expected. 5.4-6.7 and 6.2 average. He's a guy of think of for his willingness to move relentlessly backwards, but maybe outrunning the pass rush backwards gave him a chance to avoid sacks (or maybe my memory is biased by extreme plays)

58 Aaron Brooks was like the…

Aaron Brooks was like the NFL's version of JaVale McGee: a pretty solid player with a tendency to make some incredibly boneheaded blunders.  Those blunders tend to dominate our memories of him, but when you look at the numbers, he really wasn't a bad QB at all.

56 I have a question about the…

I have a question about the definition of a sack. I'm envisioning five scenarios.

1. A QB is standing in the pocket, his protection fails, and he gets clobbered.
2. A QB is standing in the pocket, his protection fails, and he scrambles toward the LOS looking for a receiver downfield until he gets clobbered behind the LOS.
3. A QB is standing in the pocket, sees nothing downfield, and runs with the ball tucked but is tackled behind the LOS.
4. A QB takes the snap and runs a draw, showing pass before running, and gets tackled behind the LOS.
5. A QB takes the snap and immediately runs but is tackled behind the LOS.

Scenarios 1 and 2 are definitely sacks. With scenario 3, I think it's generally called a sack but I can see a reasonable argument that it isn't. I don't know whether scenarios 4 and 5 are sacks but I don't see why they should be, other than the position that the player tackled for a loss is listed at.

64 When I read the article I…

When I read the article I note that Kyler Murry somehow accumulated 48 more negative DYAR (inclusive of his positive rushing plays) then Faulk did and I'm asking myself how a QB could possibly be less effective than Faulk was. From a mathematical point of view it's fairly obvious that it's a result of the greater number of opportunities Murry had to suck (51 drop backs vs. 27). looking at those raw numbers you might think that the Cards non-QB rushing game was effective, but that's not the case, many of the third down conversions were Murry's (the Cards were 9-17 on 3rd down, mostly by scramble or short pass). I guess this day is mostly a consequence of the outsized effect of the 8 sacks Murry took, but I still don't think DYAR is a correct comparison of the ineffectiveness of these two QB games.

Murray had worse DYAR than Falk because he had nearly twice as many dropbacks. By DVOA, Murray was clearly better, -65.5% to -82.0%. I would point out that Jarrett Stidham was even worse at -356.2% on four throws.

What happens if you regress sack depth against the triangle plot of QB personality type? Do you seem the same agglomerations of Klingons that you saw there?

That's an interesting idea, I'll try to remember to explore that sometime.

I feel like even though Lamar's elusiveness has lead to a great yards per sack statline so far in his career, it doesn't even really do justice to his (or other elusive QBs) value. So far in his young career, he's been in a position where he's about to get sacked and turn it into a positive yardage rush, and some of these have been really really big runs of 10 yards or more. If he breaks a tackle or sidesteps a tackle that would surely have taken down an average QB and almost makes it back to the LoS, it goes down as a 1 yards sack in this stat, but if he gains 10 more yards this stat doesn't even count it. The most obvious fix I think would be tracking yards following a QB hit, but even that doesn't capture when he straight up sidesteps a defender. I don't really have a fix to offer, just pointing out an area for potential future research I guess.

That's a really good point. The play-by-play does designate whether QB runs are scrambles or not, so we could combine scrambles and sacks for quarterbacks at some point.

1. A QB is standing in the pocket, his protection fails, and he gets clobbered.
2. A QB is standing in the pocket, his protection fails, and he scrambles toward the LOS looking for a receiver downfield until he gets clobbered behind the LOS.
3. A QB is standing in the pocket, sees nothing downfield, and runs with the ball tucked but is tackled behind the LOS.
4. A QB takes the snap and runs a draw, showing pass before running, and gets tackled behind the LOS.
5. A QB takes the snap and immediately runs but is tackled behind the LOS.

The definition of a sack is a tackle of a player who is attempting to pass. Yes, a player's intent can change during a play (several times, in the case of some Russell Wilson highlights), but it's usually very clear whether the play was a designed run or not. And if it's not a designed run, and the player is tackled for a loss, that's a sack. So 1, 2, and 3 in your examples would be sacks, 4 and 5 would not.